Monday, May 28, 2012

New photo round-up: Bahia Balena to Islas Tortugas, Costa Rica

The tropical paradise of Islas Tortugas, Costa Rica

                  We enjoyed several days in the flat, calm anchorage at Bahia Balena. We explored the fishing village of Tambor there with our friends from "Swift Current."

Typical home in Tambor, Costa Rica 

This wildflower by the side of the road greeted me with a big smile and open arms. :-) 

                          Have you ever seen a rooster in a tree? Well WE did, in Tambor!
                             Maybe he needed to fly the coop and go to his "man cave..."

           This little guy is called a Variegated Squirrel. He was quite friendly and came right
              up to me on the road. They are found only in Central America. VERY cool...

      Well, the rainy season is here in Central America.  Serious squalls blow through nearly every night (or day). So far we've counted three lightning strikes within a few hundred feet of us.

     There is a rumor in the sailing world that if you put all of your portable electronics (computer, camera, hand-held GPS, etc.) in the oven during a storm, this will protect them in the unfortunate event that the boat gets struck by lightning.

Lightning strikes are a big part of spending the rainy season in Central America

  Our friends Adam and Cindy aboard Bravo put their iPad in the oven during one lightning storm and then went to the v-berth for a fitful sleep. The next morning they heated up the oven for muffins and, well, I'm sure you can guess the sad end to this story.

 As Adam put it: "Apple introduces the newest model to their line-up: the Fry-pad!"

 Yep. They cooked it up with their breakfast.

  Chris and I had a long talk and came up with the following equation:

 "The odds of us getting hit by lightning are far less than us putting our electronics in the oven and forgetting they are there."         :-/  

   So, for several reasons, let us have the good fortune to not be struck by lightning this year!

 And on the bright side, we've captured TWENTY-FIVE GALLONS of fresh drinking water from our rain-catch system in the last 10 days! We're thrilled!    :-)

   Anyway, back to Tambor. We took a tranquil walk through the village and split an entree at the heavenly Tambor Tropical Resort.

The well kept grounds of the Tambor Tropical Resort

We also got free Wi-Fi while we shared our delicious entree

After eating, blogging and relaxing, we headed back up the road to the boat

Sleepy seaside scene in Tambor

Another roadside scene, bursting with life

                     The next morning we pulled anchor and headed to Islas Tortugas.

There's nothing like waking up with the sun
after the skies have been cleared by a good hard rain...

Motoring up to the anchorage at Islas Tortugas ("Now THIS is what I'm talking about...") 

Yes, it's as beautiful as it looks

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Costa Rica photos: Bahia Papagayo

The incredibly lush Bahia Papagayo

      We spent a week exploring the lovely Bahia Papagayo. Our first port of call was Playa del Cocos.

Typical upscale waterfront bar and eatery at Bahia de Cocos. Gringos were everywhere...

    After spending the first 48 hours checking into Costa Rica at Cocos, we were greeted with this mildly horrifying sight coming over the horizon:

               This monstrosity in the sky was too small for a hurricane, too big for a twister. (Is global warming creating new weather phenomenon now?)  Note the very organized lines of demarcation. Powerless to do anything but hope and pray that the storm weakens or turns away, we "battened down the hatches..."

       ...but alas, she did not dissapate. She merely strengthened as she bore down on us (again, note the line of demarcation as well as the black sky). With the boat prepared, there was nothing to do but wait inside the warm and dry "Espiritu." We played a nervous game of crazy rummy as she roared over us.

                 Fortunately the anchor held, the mast stayed up, and I won the rummy game!    :-)

We are definitely in the tropics now! Colors are everywhere...

Main street in Playa de Coco

We saw this White-nosed Coati during a hike in the rainforest

Another anchorage not far from the Four Seasons

           This big guy, about 2 feet long, graciously posed for us at Marina Papagayo, where we filled up the tanks with water and fuel and spent the evening with Howard and Lynn of "Swift Current." We love their company and we also love their air conditioning!     :-)

This waterfront basketball court in Cocos exemplifies the excellent
quality of life for the locals here. Pura Vida indeed! 

Would YOU cross this bridge? 

After checking the river for crocs (it was croc-free) we went for it.
Flashback to Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland!

Yet another gigantic pig sleeping by the side of the road. This guy had to be several hundred pounds!

A drive-thru car wash, Costa Rica style

Which road do we take? They're both so beautiful!

OK, we'll pick this one

               Costa Rica is famous for its serious attitude about clean energy and concern
                    for the environment. These recycling centers are everywhere.

We pulled anchor and moved south to Playa Brasalito.
Our stay there was squally, rainy and very rolly. 

I was surprised to see this American-style evangelical sign on the road here -- and in English!

And down the road, there was one more

This 3 foot long sake carcas was in the middle of the highway.
They DO have boa constrictors here in Costa Rica. I'm keeping a lookout for 'em...

Jack and the Beanstalk, Costa Rica style

      Tired of the rolly anchorage, we pulled anchor with Swift Current and tried our luck at Bahia Tamarindo, a very popular surf town here in Northern Costa Rica.

Enjoying a Coca Light at a waterfront establishment in Tamarindo

      I was thrilled to find a large, well-stocked used bookstore here. They took my already read books in trade, and I replenished my stock with 7 new (used) books!   This made my week!

This is Tamarindo's idea of a strip mall...  :-) 

    The thing about Tamarindo, though, is this: it's a SURF town. Which means it's got big waves and big swells -- which are great if you're a surfer -- but it's not so great if you're a sailor.

This is what happened to both Chris and I in our dinghy AND Howard from Swift Current in his inflatable. These swells and waves are murder on tiny boats...

         Trying to re-enter the ocean from the beach aboard our dinghy, we got hit with a solid wall of green water, which knocked my glasses off my head, but graciously left the boat upright and filled with water. Howard was not so lucky, as he suffered a complete capsize.

     Ah, well...fortunately I had a back-up pair of old glasses so I'm not completely up a creek.

     We were so exhausted after several stressful days and sleepless nights in rocky/rolly anchorages.  Espiritu and Swift Current pulled anchor yet again and headed south in search of calm weather and flat, comfortable anchorages. And we finally found one:

Beautiful and calm Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

  We may stay here several days.  It's like a flat, hot bathtub. We slept 11 hours last night!  Hasta luego!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pura Vida, Costa Rica style

The view from our cockpit in the pristine Bahia Santa Elena anchorage in Costa Rica

The 2 night passage from El Salvador, passing Nicaragua and arriving at Costa Rica was a bit lumpy, averaging 15-25 knots on the nose. During the worst of it, Chris injured a couple of ribs. Nurse Liz's diagnosis: no broken ribs as there was no apparent pneumothorax or internal bleeding.

This strange circle appeared in the clouds above us during the worst of the winds. Meaning? 

We then hit some Papagayo winds as we approached Costa Rica. Cruisers note: staying close to land really does reduce the fetch and make for a much more comfortable ride.

This classic anvil cloud over the Nicaraguan mountains made us wish we were a bit farther away.
There's some serious weather going on over there!

Finally we anchored at Puerto Saley, Costa Rica. The bay is notable as the northern half of it is on Nicaraguan land, and the southern half is Costa Rica.

Fisherman try their luck at Puerto Saley, Costa Rica

  One other brush with health disaster occurred during our first breakfast in the bay at Puerto Saley. I made us buckwheat pancakes and went to fetch the maple syrup. We had run low on syrup so I did what we cruisers do in a pinch -- I had "fleshed it out" with a bit of water and some locally made honey I had bought in the mercado in Huatulco.

  I pulled out the honey from the back of the pantry, opened the top and a whoosh of air came out. I thought this was strange, but the syrup looked and smelled OK so I shrugged and carried it out to the cockpit to serve for breakfast.

  Suddenly I had a nursing flashback. Honey can often be a source of botulism. And the botulism bacteria is gas forming, which means it causes food containers to balloon out.

  I almost served my husband a breakfast of pancakes and botulism!

  In a panic I ran to the rail and dumped it out. Whew. That was close. Trust me: out here in the middle of nowhere is not where you want to catch botulism.

After a botulism-free breakfast, we went ashore to explore teeny-tiny Puerto Saley.

Not a bad spot for a dinghy dock, huh?

The hustle-bustle of Puerto Saley was really exhausting... ;-)

 Costa Ricans have a charming way of greeting one another: "Pura Vida." It means literally "Pure Life."  They greet one another in passing and on the street this way, saying "Pura Vida" instead of "How's it goin'?"    How lovely is that?

  I can see that this "Pura Vida" may take our carefully organized schedule and blow it away like a gentle breeze...

Nice spot for a beachside picnic, yes?

Sunset over the Nicaraguan half of the bay

  Interesting note: we've read that this isolated section of Nicaragua was where American troops trained Nicaraguan rebels in the famous "Iran/Contra" scandal of the 1980's.

Colonel Oliver North was here?

Looking across the bay to Nicaragua from the Costa Rican side

There's a pig by the side of the road! A PIG! By the side of the ROAD!   :-) 

          After a couple of sweet days, we pulled anchor and headed to Bahia de Julquillal
                                                Town, about 8 miles south.

The rural roads of Costa Rica remind Chris and I of our childhood growing up in
 1960's in Costa Mesa before it was built up.

The little village was built alongside an estuary, where we found this sweet little restaurant.
 "Two icy Pepsi Lights, please!"   :-) 

We loved the mascot of this seaside home. I think that naked doll may be "He-Man" --
without his He-Man clothes (or loin cloth, or whatever He-Man wears).

I wish I had more knowledge of geology. There's some amazing stuff going on down here, rock wise.

  It is the end of the dry season here in Costa Rica, which means many of the trees are brown and without leaves, same as in the states. But since rainy season is just starting, by the time we're finished sailing Central America, everything will be green, green, green!

A hillside of brown trees grace the hills of Santa Rosa National Park. But the one green tree promises a lush rainy season. We must only be patient...

Pretty nice beachfront real estate, yes?

I looked for a souvenir "Costa Rica" t-shirt in the shop in town,
but all they had were shirts that said "New York." LOL...

Look at this guy! He eats his big bowl of slop, then he just plops down in the dirt and goes to sleep.
 And he didn't even have the decency to put some clothes on! What a pig!   ;-) 

This gravestone by the estuary must have been washed up by a big storm. No sign of the body...

Several large snowy egrets congregate on the trees by the estuary. Welcome to Costa Rica! :-) 

Another priceless tropical sunset

We rose before dawn to make the short passage to Bahia Santa Elena by moonlight

                   The view from Espiritu at anchor in pristine Bahia Santa Elena.
                    We still hadn't seen another sailboat since we left El Salvador.
                                    P.S: How do you like our sunshade?

We watched in awe as macaws flew across the bay each morning, two by two, until the entire flock had crossed


We also saw howler monkeys up close. There was a family of several of them in the nearby trees.

         This little red white and blue hermit crab is very patriotic! But before you go all Lee Greenwood on me, take a look at the Costa Rican flag:

Gotcha! :-) 

We were surprised to find this row of cacti standing at attention in the middle of the lush rain forest.
Nature. She's a complex place.

Check out this guy we tripped upon during our hike! He's called a crested caracara. 

      There are no people at all here in Bahia Santa Elena. But since it's a National Park, there are truck trails which are perfect for hiking. Cruisers note: If you follow the directions exactly in the Sarana guide, the roads are wonderful for hiking, birdwatching and exploring.

    Since Chris and I were all alone here for 3 days, I'm emberassed to admit that we gave in and joined the club. The club that I never in a million years thought I would join. Yeah. That's right.

    We joined the skinny dipping club. Go ahead. Laugh. Snicker. Go right ahead...(LOL). But it was pretty darn wonderful. That's all I'll say about that! ;-)

We found this little beauty on our hike to the waterfall

A White Tailed Trogon was an exciting find!

   So, OK, needless to say, we are immersing ourselves in the Pura Vida here in Costa Rica. We can't believe our good fortune to be here. On the other hand, we've sacrificed alot and worked damn hard to get here. It's places like this that are our beautiful reward.

       We pulled up anchor at 3AM and sailed the 50 miles south to Playa de Cocos, Costa Rica.

The peaceful Playa de Cocos anchorage

     We checked in to the country here (a rather laborious process). Cruiser's note: arrive at the Port Captains office at 8AM sharp with bus money, a hat, drinking water, walking shoes, and be ready for a very long day.

  But it was all worth it. Cause we're legal now for 90 days to travel the country! Come along with us as we explore...